Prospect Check-In: Sasha Pastujov of the USNTDP
Sasha Pastujov has been lights out this season.
The United States National Team Development Program forward has collected 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 total points in 18 games. He currently leads his entire team in points and has compiled many multiple-goal games over the course of this season, including his first-ever USHL hat-trick on December 18 against the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
“Collectively as a team, we’ve been picking up our play a lot recently and playing really strong,” Pastujov said. “I’ve had great linemates all year, I’ve played with Dylan Duke a lot and have had rotating centers, but I just have a great crew around me. I love playing with (them). They are so good in their own ways. I think the way us three have been playing, we really complement each other and it’s a blast.”
Pastujov and the Americans are bringing their A-game this season, but it’s hard not to have an eye on the quickly-approaching 2021 NHL Draft.
“Everyone is focused and dialed in,” Pastujov explained. “We all know what’s ahead of us, we’re all going to see different worlds in a couple months, we have that in the back of our minds.”
With this season so unpredictable for the 2021 NHL Draft class, FCHockey’s No. 48 prospect in their preliminary rankings is ready to prove he will do whatever it takes to impress NHL scouts – no matter what happens this year.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes for my team to win every night,” the left winger said confidently. “No matter what the situation is, I am a team guy, so whatever it is they need me to do, I’ll do.”
Pastujov showing off his unique skill
Pastujov is phenomenal with the puck on his stick offensively. He displays as a dual-threat scorer who can make smart passes to teammates and get quality shots to the net. He’s an elusive skater who is hard to stop once he gets going. He’s very agile and displays strong edgework, but he could get faster if he gains more power in his first few steps.
“He has exceptional vision and his ability to find teammates anywhere on the ice is excellent,” FCHockey writer Lauren Kelly said. “Pastujov’s confidence is on display when he has the puck on his stick, his passes are crisp and accurate.”
This play makes sense when considering who Pastujov looks up to in the NHL – St. Louis Blues’ forward Vladimir Tarasenko. “I’ve been watching a lot of Tarasenko,” Pastujov said. “I like him a lot. The way he shoots the puck and makes plays, he’s my favorite.”
Defensively, Pastajov is very reliable. If he was more physical in the defensive zone, it would surely benefit him more, but he maintains solid positioning overall.
“Right now, I feel I’m playing a strong game in both ends of the ice” he explained. “I put a lot of detail into the defensive-zone. I’m watching a lot of video with coaches and it’s been a big emphasis on my game. Something I would like to improve is my wall play, like getting pucks up the wall. I’m on my off-wing, so getting pucks out of the zone more effectively and pulling pucks off the wall is something I’m working on.”
Pastujov getting draft advice from his older brothers
Pastujov has two older brothers, Nick and Mike. Nick recently played for the University of Michigan and was drafted 193rd overall by the New York Islanders in the 2016 draft, now looking to make an impact with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The undrafted Michael currently plays for Michigan, following his brother’s footsteps.
“My brothers have been through the process,” Pastujov said. “They’ve been giving me small pointers and tips and tell me not to worry about things too much. I’ll I can do is control my play, just focus on my game and try to block out the noise.”
Next year, the youngest Pastujov will take his talents – not to the University of Michigan surprisingly – to the University of Notre Dame, where he will continue his hockey and academic journey.
Pastajov was drafted 276th overall in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection by the Guelph Storm, but playing in the OHL never came across his mind.
“Watching my brothers go through the U.S. program and go the college route, it’s always been a goal of mine to play for the USA and play college hockey as well,” Pastujov said. “My parents have always preached education and going the college route instead of major junior. So I definitely wanted to go to a high-end educational school as well as a good hockey program.
“With the hockey program, the coaching staff and myself have developed a great relationship, and the facilities and all that at Notre Dame are second to none, so it made the decision pretty easy.”
While his brothers have helped get him to this point, Pastujov looks to not only be drafted higher than brother Nick but could push for first-round consideration. His season so far has definitely helped that case.